Saturday, June 25, 2011

El Flaco - Austin, TX

Woke up yesterday with a craving for fajitas and figured I'd try a place that I haven't yet reviewed, so I headed over to Habanero Cafe down at South First and Oltorf, but as I thought might be the case, it was packed and there was a wait, so I hopped back in the car and wandered around until I noticed El Flaco, on South Congress, which I've never noticed before, and which looked a lot like the dirty little Tex-Mex place that I was feeling like.  

This place is likely often overlooked as just another far South Congress dive, but it ended up being a perfect spot to satisfy my fajita craving.  After pulling into the parking spot there in front of the newspapers, I backed back out and found another spot after reading the posted sign notifying me that the spot I was in was "Mr. Flaco Parking Only".  Must be the Mexican Burt Reynolds or something to get that kind of treatment.  

Not much for interiors or decor here, but who cares, it's about the food.  I was one of six people in the joint, two of which were heavily tatooed and dining alone, a couple who was discussing a friend's domestic dispute, and two other rather heavyset Latino women, all of us watching the news on the small little box tv hung in the corner of the joint.  

I ordered the beef Fajitas Rancheras, which axes the bell peppers in place of the much hotter serranos, and decided to start with some of their queso, which came out first with the obligatory chips and salsa.  The salsa was a great, hole-in-the-wall, red variety, with lots of heat and a liquid consistency.  Very good with the warm, salted chips which came in a basket of translucent wax paper soaking up the excess.

Queso was pretty simple, and, well, let me just give you the recipe based on what my fine palate was able to decipher.

2 parts government issued cheese
1 part Elmer's wood glue
1 chopped pickled jalapeno

This stuff was THICK, and lasted about three minutes before becoming a solid paste which set the spoon such that you could lift the bowl off the table with it.  That said, it was good, but I limited myself as I could literally feel it catching and sticking to my ribs on the way down.  Combining it with the salsa was a nice means of keeping it more liquid-like as well as giving it some needed kick.

Fajitas.  Let's do this recipe too.

1.  Chop onions, serrano, peppers, and tomatoes.
2.  Marinate and slice skirt steak.
3.  Heat up cast iron fajita plate to somewhere between 100,000 and 110,000 degrees, throw steps one and two on it, garnish with cilantro, and serve.  

Seriously, this thing came out so hot that even after I was done eating my first fajita, it was still going strong, strewing off loads of smoke, and charring everything on the bottom to a crisp, giving it all a nice caramelization and fantastic flavor.  The first department must have this place marked on a map on its wall with a "Do Not Respond" note, and Mr. Flaco must have some pull with the local Fire Marshall in order to not have smoke detectors in this place.  

The meat was fantastic, heavily seasoned throughout and cooked to order, with the serranos providing really good heat.  The taco was cooled down to a comfortable temperature to eat once put on the hot flour tortillas with chunky, day-glo green homemade guacamole and pico de gallo, making it a fantastic combination that I'll be back for soon.  

Portions were perfect for lunch, with enough meat, vegetables and tortillas to get you three nice-sized tacos, without giving you the "I just ate a massive Mexican meal for lunch and need a siesta before heading back to the office".  Charro beans were a nice flavorful side, while the rice was run-of-the-mill and an unnecessary filler.

Great place to pop in for a quick and good lunch if you don't mind smelling like a line cook for the next few hours.  


Atmosphere:  dirty Tex-Mex hole-in-the-wall, good for lunch, good for a hangover, good for dinner, good for carry out, outdoor seating, no bar seating

Food:  classic Tex-Mex

When to Go:  lunch, dinner

Dog Friendly:  yes

Crowd:  combination of WT and real Mexicans

What to Order for the First Timer:  beef Fajitas Rancheras

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